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Bruce

Who pays your bar fees: You or your firm? (esp at a small firm)

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Curious if anyone at a SMALL FIRM (SP up to let's say 10 lawyers?) can comment on whether or not their firm pays their bar fees. 

I'm being told that it is the norm at small firms for lawyers to pay their own bar fees... but this is the first I've heard of it. 

Since I haven't heard anyone complaining about this, I'm curious if it's not actually the norm, or if those of us who opted out of Bay street are already bummed about having our salaries cut in half, and are too conscious of our non-baller status to publicly gripe/admit we have to pay our own bar fees, too. 

BACKGROUND: I'm a first-year call and am currently negotiating my salary with a solo practitioner. Previous to starting his own firm, he worked for a big Bay Street firm, a West Coast firm of about 40 lawyers, and a small boutique, so he has a wide range of experience. 

My offer is $5k below the bottom range of what ZSA says a small private practice should pay a first year in my region, but a bonus structure that kicks in after my billables recoup my full salary, so hopefully that will eventually make up for the low base. (But probably not for my first year or so while I'm building my practice). Because of the nature of the work, I'll have to pay fees in two jurisdictions, which will add up to $7k/yr -- dragging my after-tax take-home pay even lower. (I have to ask my accountant if my bar fees are tax deductible if I'm an employee...) Hence my concern. 

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1 hour ago, utmguy said:

Not unusual for you to have to pay yourself.  

In a firm with little more than 10 employees - firm pays.

Also, I have a large cohort of fellow law students who are currently articling and, based strictly on my own empirical data from talking with them, I would suggest a slight modification to what @utmguy said: "Not unheard of to have to pay yourself." Within my cohort, the only ones paying out of pocket are those articling for solo practices - a very small minority.

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1 hour ago, utmguy said:

Not unusual for you to have to pay yourself.  

It's "not unusual" to pay 2x fees when you're salaried on less than $100k? This seems horrendous.

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2 hours ago, Bruce said:

 

I'm at a small firm (5-9 lawyers) in Ontario. The firm pays for my law society fees, insurance, and CPD. I'm not sure how comparable it would be to Western provinces, but for me, coverage for my law society fees, insurance, and CPD adds up to roughly $6000 - $6500, so certainly not an insignificant factor when negotiating a salary/compensation package.   

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Articled for a sole practitioner: paid my own fees.

Call transfer (Ontario to BC): paid my own fees.

Practicing at a small (<10 lawyer) firm: firm pays fees, insurance, CPD, benefits, and reimburses reasonable expenses.

Re taxes (not advice, just my personal experience, check with your accountant, blah blah blah) I was able to claim transfer fees against my income as they were not reimbursed by my current firm. If you have to pay your own fees, you may be able to do the same. May be a small consolation, because it's always nice to have that money upfront, but better than nothing.

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A friend summered at a mid-size firm (~50 lawyers) in Toronto financial district that participated in one of the formal recruits and the firm did not pay bar fees or for robes. There’s no easy rule based on firm size. 

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New/recent call at a small sized firm (3-5 lawyers). Firm pays bar fees and LAWPRO fees. 

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Small firm in small city Ontario. CPD, lawpro and LSO paid for by firm.

The people that I know who pay their own fees invoice the firm for their services (basically, a regular and or exclusive contract). They claim their fees and get the tax advantage from it. Talk to your accountant but mine told me that whoever paid the fees can claim the expense. My partner, for example, is a member of a professional order, a public employee, and still pays his own order fees. He hasn't had any issues claiming it.

 

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I'm at a small boutique in Toronto (5-10 lawyers) and the firm pays bar fees, LAWPRO, CPD, and memberships.

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18 hours ago, Bruce said:

Curious if anyone at a SMALL FIRM (SP up to let's say 10 lawyers?) can comment on whether or not their firm pays their bar fees. 

I'm being told that it is the norm at small firms for lawyers to pay their own bar fees... but this is the first I've heard of it. 

Since I haven't heard anyone complaining about this, I'm curious if it's not actually the norm, or if those of us who opted out of Bay street are already bummed about having our salaries cut in half, and are too conscious of our non-baller status to publicly gripe/admit we have to pay our own bar fees, too. 

BACKGROUND: I'm a first-year call and am currently negotiating my salary with a solo practitioner. Previous to starting his own firm, he worked for a big Bay Street firm, a West Coast firm of about 40 lawyers, and a small boutique, so he has a wide range of experience. 

My offer is $5k below the bottom range of what ZSA says a small private practice should pay a first year in my region, but a bonus structure that kicks in after my billables recoup my full salary, so hopefully that will eventually make up for the low base. (But probably not for my first year or so while I'm building my practice). Because of the nature of the work, I'll have to pay fees in two jurisdictions, which will add up to $7k/yr -- dragging my after-tax take-home pay even lower. (I have to ask my accountant if my bar fees are tax deductible if I'm an employee...) Hence my concern. 

My firm pays

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I articled at a firm with fewer than 10 lawyers and I paid, I assume smaller firms are less likely to pay but there is probably a limit to the anecdotal info you will get here

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Thank you to everyone who responded to my question -- seems pretty mixed. 

I did some research and confirmed that if I pay my own bar fees, I can use those as a personal tax deduction. (but if the firm paid, they could use it as a tax deduction -- so, as someone said in the comments above, whoever pays gets the tax benefit) 

I'm certainly not thrilled to have to pay for my bar fees but sounds like it is often par for the course when working with a SP. That said, it will certainly factor into the negotiation.

Again, thank you everyone for your feedback! 

 

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Firm paid for commissioner stamp while articling, articling fee, annual fee, notary application/stamp fee, and lawpro. 

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Also, if your firm does end up paying for your annual law society fees and professional insurance premiums, it is important to make sure there is an agreement about what happens if you quit or get let go. 

Many lawyers in AB who lost their jobs this year got an unpleasant surprise of getting a bill (pro-rated) for annual fees and premiums the firm paid. 

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On 1/21/2020 at 7:04 PM, leafs_law said:

A friend summered at a mid-size firm (~50 lawyers) in Toronto financial district that participated in one of the formal recruits and the firm did not pay bar fees or for robes. There’s no easy rule based on firm size. 

I am in the same situation, and might actually be articling at that same firm- My firm does not pay for bar fees, robes, or anything else except for salary.

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I'm a new call at a small firm (fewer than 6 lawyers) - firm pays LSO, LawPro, CPD, CBA/OBA, benefits.

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